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Feedback wanted--housing affordability


Jaybee
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We will be moving soon, and hope to buy a house before too long. However, we have always rented, and have very little to put down for a downpayment at this time due to longtime underemployment. I'm trying to get an idea of how much we would be able to spend on a house without being too strapped in every other way. The place where we are moving seems to have a pretty good range of housing, and has a low cost of living. We are fairly frugal, but like to go out to eat and go to the occasional movie, plus our kids have a couple of extra curriculars that are on the lower cost end. They are also teens, so they eat a lot. Would you say this cost calculator is pretty accurate? (If info shows up on this link, it is not correct for our situation, because I put random info in there for this purpose.

 

https://smartasset.com/mortgage/how-much-house-can-i-afford#Ya3PspKpDY

 

 

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I put in our family's information and it gave me 3k less than the highest amount of $$ we were pre-approved for. So the numbers it gives I would consider to be the absolute maximum amount of money I could afford to spend on a home. Honestly, our mortgage is 297k less than what it said...getting a house at the cost it said is laughable for us as a humongous amount of Dh's income would go to our mortgage and we don't want to be "house-poor". It's not worth it *to us*. 

 

JMO, I'd check another source that might give you a better range with more data input so you get a more accurate picture. 

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That seems too high to me.  I would recommend starting out with the monthly payment you are looking for, then run the numbers to see where that ends up.

 

Adding, we have always been approved for way more than we could reasonably afford and still have a life.  DO NOT go by the maximum amount you are approved.  Decide what you can reasonably pay monthly and go from there.

Edited by goldberry
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No, that does not seem accurate to me.  The underlying data seems flawed--both the taxes and home insurance part.  In addition, it does not really take all of your particular budget needs in to account.  Our general rule of thumb to be comfortable is to try to make our home no more than 20% of our take home pay.  I realize in HCOL areas that's not possible, but for LCOL ones, as you mention, I would strive for it.  It gives us breathing room to weather the disasters that seem to happen with life (unexpected medical bills, vehicle replacements, etc.).

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I put down my family's actual information into the cost calculator you linked. The mortgage payment (after 20% down payment) and other cost they estimated would wipe out more than half my husband's take home pay. The cost calculator gives us an estimate that is $200k more than what we would be preapproved for when we asked two years ago and my husband didn't have a big pay raise in recent years. I don't mind the banks more conservative estimate.

 

The banks mortgage officers have actually been rather accurate on the nitty gritty costs themselves as they are homeowners in the same county we are buying in and are well aware of current property tax rate and home insurance costs.

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Have you tried working backwards?  Taking into home maintenance costs and your current budget, what's the payment you are comfortable making - then plug that into a calculator that spits out the house price and loan type for the payment you want...

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This calculator showed about what we were approved for when we bought our house 4 years ago. The max is about double what our home is worth and more than double what we paid. We could afford double our current mortgage, but then it would feel like we had no breathing room for extras.

 

I hope that helps.

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Have you tried working backwards? Taking into home maintenance costs and your current budget, what's the payment you are comfortable making - then plug that into a calculator that spits out the house price and loan type for the payment you want...

This is how we determined our house budget.
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It wasn't accurate for me.

 

I went by what amount we were comfortable paying monthly and compared that also to what we were paying for rent.  We went for something lower than what rental prices were to factor in cost of maintenance (older home).  We put very little down on our house and some closing costs were covered by the seller.  We got an FHA and borrowed money for a down payment from the 401K (which at the time wasn't a big deal because the economy was in the toilet and it wasn't making money anyway). 

 

I've played around with these calculators before and never found them to be very good. 

 

 

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When looking at houses, don't just look at the current property taxes as often they can go up, sometimes very significantly when the home changes ownership. This is esp. True if the home has been owned by the same people for quite a while.

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It is fairly accurate but I wouldn't go that high. What I thought was funny is they gave a price that was 20K more then the price of our house at purchase but had the correct mortgage payment. Odd! Also I noticed that it didn't include things like flood insurance (should you want that, highly location dependent cost). Not sure if it includes things like Wind insurance for areas that need that (Florida for example). 

 

What I would do is figure out what insurance is required/want in the area you want to move to (homeowners, flood, wind, earthquake) then figure out the general tax rate. Then go to a mortgage calculator and enter your down payment and adjust to what you would maximum be comfortable in paying (minus a good $200 or more for life hiccups), with all insurance and taxes included. Oh and depending on your down payment, you might also figure out what the going rate is for PMI or Private Mortgage Insurance. That is required for anyone putting less then 20% down. 

 

We personally purchased under what we could afford and I am SOOO glad we did! DH got laid off 2 years after we purchased this house and his unemployment check went straight to mortgage. It more or less covered it. So that made it so we were able to stay in this house. Life has hiccups and having a plan for that is VERY helpful. 

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Have you looked into first time homebuyer classes? Most states sponsor them through local banks. The classes are free and they will go over all of your options, reasonable payments for your income, etc. If that's not an option, you can contact NACA (https://www.naca.com) and receive similar assistance, again, free of charge.

 

Thank you for this info. For other PPs, it's a little hard to figure it backward at this point. We've lived overseas for years, have been back in the U.S. for awhile, but in a completely different area of the country from where we are moving. We won't jump into this too quickly, because we definitely don't want to get in over our heads, but are trying to get some idea of what is practical to plan at this point. It's overwhelming trying to think it through, to be honest, especially with rising health insurance costs, etc.

 

ETA: We certainly will not buy at the high end of the recommendations, because I have read that loans are often approved that stretch buyers too thin. But I am trying to find a comfortable spot in there somewhere.

Edited by Jaybee
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One hint - believe the estimates for house maintenance. About 1% of the price of a house will be spent annually for maintenance. When I first heard that number, I thought, no way! Maybe it's less if you have a new home or are very DIY skilled. My home is less than 15 years old and it's stuff here and there. I'm very frugal and I thought I'd never spend that much on maintenance but it adds up. Quickly. A minor roof thing costs $1,000. A minor a/c problem - $400. A minor electrical problem - $100, a screen problem - $200. And today I found a squirrel living in the roof. I expect I'll have to call both the exterminator and the roofer.

 

So, when you find a house cost you can afford, add 1% of the cost of your house ($2,000 for a $200,000 home for ex, which is an extra $170 monthly expense) to your budget and see how that affects the new monthly costs.

Edited by displace
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We currently rent too, but I plugged in all the relevant info for if we were looking for a house now (we plan on buying in two or three years if there aren't any major life changes) and there's no way we'd spend that much. Our utilities are included in our rent, and if I factored approximate utilities into what the calculator estimated, we'd literally be paying twice as much for housing as we are now. At least. Just the mortgage payment they estimated we could afford would be several hundred dollars more every month than we pay for rent plus utilities now.

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Look, strangers can't calculate what you "can afford."

 

We bought about 20% below our approval when dh made X income. We made it work. Dh now makes 2X income, and I still feel like we pay too much for this house. (Health insurance up, property tax up, teenagers more expensive than when they were little, want to save more, want to do more things...)

 

You really do have to decide how much you're willing to pay each month first.

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:(. Hugs. Don't buy a dump. It's hard to rent but owning a dump would be much worse.

 

Well, we won't buy a dump, but I'm pretty tired of renting. And there are few rentals in the area where we are moving. Nothing attractive that I could find. There is still a little time, so maybe something will come up by the time we need it.

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The calculator was pretty close to what we were approved for before the housing bubble collapsed. The amount seemed really high, and what we felt we could reasonably afford budget-wise was nearly half that.

 

I hope you'll be able to find a good house that meets your needs!  :grouphug:

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I would never take out a loan for my approved maximum. Life is messier and needier than those calculations allow for.

Yes, we were approved for almost 100k more than what we bought this house for, and had years on our salary where we were barely squeaking by. Ideally all the taxes, insurance, and monthly mortgage payments would not be more than 20% of your takehome pay, and we have found 15% to be a lot more comfortable.

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Y'all make me want to cry. :( I don't want to live in a dump.

Sorry, but it's a whole lot worse to buy a house you struggle to afford and be stressed about money for the next fifteen years. It really is. If you can't afford what you want waiting might be a better choice, or figuring out how to maximize a smaller house.

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That calculator is laughable, it recommends about 2x as much as we would ever spend. I can't imagine spending that much on a house with our income.

 

 

It said about the same for me. We like to eat out, travel, etc. No way would I spend that much without a major increase in income.

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The calculator gives an amount 3 times our current mortgage payment and we're tight already most months. 

 

Our situation may be a bit different because we pay our health insurance premium out of pocket from the ACA and it's about 25% of our take home pay, so that limits us realistically moving at this time.

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Well, I guess I will chime in since I am a former banker/loan officer...

 

First, what the bank or mortgage broker says you are "approved for" is NOT the same as the amount you can afford. All the "approved for" amount accounts for is whatever, and only what, appears on your credit report. It does not take into account your other non-credit related expenses - teens' extracurricular activities, gas, food, insurance, insurance, cell phones, home school expenses, utilities. It only gives a maximum approval amount based on your credit file - things like income, credit cards, car loans, student loans, and any past delinquencies (if those exist).

 

Therefore, you need to go into house buying/shopping with your customized top end based on what you know the full picture of your expenses to be. If you don't you will end up house poor, which means you paid too much for a house and cannot live comfortably otherwise.

 

To calculate how MUCH to spend on housing...you can go off these guidelines, I think people like Suze Orman would support something similar as well.

 

If you are in a high cost of living area (HCOL), your housing expenses should be no more that 30% of your gross (before tax) income. If you are in a LCOL area that percentage should be no more than 25% of your gross income. For mid-COL areas, you could use 28% of gross income. And, for insanely high COL areas, you would up it to 35%. but this would only be in places like Seattle or ones like it.

 

Housing expenses include mortgage (or rent), home owner's insurance (or renter's insurance), property taxes (yes, which can and often do increase yearly), as well as major utilities (gas, water, sewer, trash, electric).

 

If you earn $100k gross, then in a LCOL area you should spend no more than $25,000 annually (25% of gross income) or $2,083 per month on housing expenses (all the ones I typed above). If you earn $60k gross in a LCOL you should spend no more than $15,000 annually or $1,250 per month on housing expenses.

 

Once you figure out this math, you can see what homes are in your budget. Another option is to calculate your housing needs based off of one income only (if you are a dual income family). Then, the secondary income is used for savings or other expenses and you have not based housing costs on two incomes in case one income goes away.

 

You can get a loan for little down. Your rate will be higher, though. And, you will likely have PMI. Check out an FHA loan. FHA is a government loan. It is helpful for new buyers, but the approval process is stringent and they have to approve the house you buy (they actually send out an inspector/appraiser). The more you can put down, the better in the long run.

 

If you seek more information, books like Home Buying for Dummies are helpful. I would not trust online calculators and you don't need them since I gave you what you need. :hurray:

 

If you have more questions that are more confidential, you can PM me.

Edited by MommyLiberty5013
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Holy cow. That calculator gave me a price that was 4 times what our mortgage is and there is NO WAY we could afford that. We have no other debt- no car payments or student loans or anything but no way could we afford what they listed. Our take home is much lower than gross because we are near retirement and are maxing out 401k and HSA accounts, plus paying health insurance premiums through work. But even without that, NO WAY would I buy a house that expensive. 

 

Dd and sil just bought a house and they are stretched to the limit. It's hard for them- kids need dental work or school books or a zillion other things and the cost of home ownership is stressing them out. 

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Sorry, but it's a whole lot worse to buy a house you struggle to afford and be stressed about money for the next fifteen years. It really is. If you can't afford what you want waiting might be a better choice, or figuring out how to maximize a smaller house.

 

Yes, I know this. I was just hoping that we would finally be able to buy a house. We have had a very rich life, and I do not regret it, or the values that allowed us to have the rich life. But those same values have prevented us from having a rich lifestyle, if you know what I mean. I won't go into the details of why we are in the situation we are in now, but it isn't from living foolishly. I'm just disappointed. Of course I don't want to have a house that is more than we can afford. That's why I'm trying to figure out what that reasonably would be. But I'm sad because I don't know if it will ever happen. I'm getting old. I wouldn't trade the life we've had for a house. But I would like to be able to get one.

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Well, I guess I will chime in since I am a former banker/loan officer...

 

First, what the bank or mortgage broker says you are "approved for" is NOT the same as the amount you can afford. All the "approved for" amount accounts for is whatever, and only what, appears on your credit report. It does not take into account your other non-credit related expenses - teens' extracurricular activities, gas, food, insurance, insurance, cell phones, home school expenses, utilities. It only gives a maximum approval amount based on your credit file - things like income, credit cards, car loans, student loans, and any past delinquencies (if those exist).

 

Therefore, you need to go into house buying/shopping with your customized top end based on what you know the full picture of your expenses to be. If you don't you will end up house poor, which means you paid too much for a house and cannot live comfortably otherwise.

 

To calculate how MUCH to spend on housing...you can go off these guidelines, I think people like Suze Orman would support something similar as well.

 

If you are in a high cost of living area (HCOL), your housing expenses should be no more that 30% of your gross (before tax) income. If you are in a LCOL area that percentage should be no more than 25% of your gross income. For mid-COL areas, you could use 28% of gross income. And, for insanely high COL areas, you would up it to 35%. but this would only be in places like Seattle or ones like it.

 

Housing expenses include mortgage (or rent), home owner's insurance (or renter's insurance), property taxes (yes, which can and often do increase yearly), as well as major utilities (gas, water, sewer, trash, electric).

 

If you earn $100k gross, then in a LCOL area you should spend no more than $25,000 annually (25% of gross income) or $2,083 per month on housing expenses (all the ones I typed above). If you earn $60k gross in a LCOL you should spend no more than $15,000 annually or $1,250 per month on housing expenses.

 

Once you figure out this math, you can see what homes are in your budget. Another option is to calculate your housing needs based off of one income only (if you are a dual income family). Then, the secondary income is used for savings or other expenses and you have not based housing costs on two incomes in case one income goes away.

 

You can get a loan for little down. Your rate will be higher, though. And, you will likely have PMI. Check out an FHA loan. FHA is a government loan. It is helpful for new buyers, but the approval process is stringent and they have to approve the house you buy (they actually send out an inspector/appraiser). The more you can put down, the better in the long run.

 

If you seek more information, books like Home Buying for Dummies are helpful. I would not trust online calculators and you don't need them since I gave you what you need. :hurray:

 

If you have more questions that are more confidential, you can PM me.

 

Thank you, this is helpful. We have a monthly figure in mind we'd prefer not to go over, but since we haven't lived in this area yet, we'll have to be there for awhile first to see how it all works out. We've moved so many times, though, I was hoping not to have to sign a year's lease, then move again.

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Yes, I know this. I was just hoping that we would finally be able to buy a house. We have had a very rich life, and I do not regret it, or the values that allowed us to have the rich life. But those same values have prevented us from having a rich lifestyle, if you know what I mean. I won't go into the details of why we are in the situation we are in now, but it isn't from living foolishly. I'm just disappointed. Of course I don't want to have a house that is more than we can afford. That's why I'm trying to figure out what that reasonably would be. But I'm sad because I don't know if it will ever happen. I'm getting old. I wouldn't trade the life we've had for a house. But I would like to be able to get one.

 

Don't give up on that dream!  Work backwards as was suggested above and see what house you can afford based on what you're currently paying for rent.  Can you afford property tax and insurance costs in addition to what you're paying for rent? If so, look at what level of house you can get where the mortgage alone is about the same as your rent.  If your current rent is all you can afford, figure out about what taxes and insurance cost (including PMI) and back those out of what you pay for rent and find out what level house you can get for that payment. 

 

Lots of places have programs for first time home buyers- they help with down payment or closing costs. It can really help!

 

Hope you find the right place. 

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There seems to be something odd about the calculation because as I played around with the numbers, a small increase in downpayment was leading to a large increase in the mortgage.  It is going to vary depending upon other debt and expenses you have, property taxes in the area, and the interest rate, but a very rough rule of thumb is that you should not spend more than 2.5 times your annual income.  So, if your income is $100,000, the most you should be looking at would be $250,000, and that would be with a $25,000 downpayment.  

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Check out Crown Financial website. They used to have percentages they recommended for budget categories. I think housing was not supposed to exceed 30% of your take home pay monthly. This would include property taxes and possibly repair issues unless you can budget those in differently and still feel comfortable.

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:(. Hugs. Don't buy a dump. It's hard to rent but owning a dump would be much worse.

 

 

Agree, agree, agree.

 

If you buy a dump because it is "affordable" you will not be able to afford fixing all the things that go wrong. Buying is costly and makes moving more difficult. Can you try renting in the area you are moving to for 1 year? During that year I would advise making payments into your savings that would be equal to the mortgage plus maintenence - the rent you must pay. See what it would feel like with those payments. Also, this would give you time to scope out the area to see where you really want to live. Which neighborhoods and what is around them.

 

Our mortgage is 1/2 what that calculator said and it is a tight budget but we have a fairly large family and the calculator didn't have a spot for dependents! That makes it worthless to us. A family with 6 kids cannot afford the same as a childless couple even if it feels like they may need more room.

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Yes, we were approved for almost 100k more than what we bought this house for, and had years on our salary where we were barely squeaking by. Ideally all the taxes, insurance, and monthly mortgage payments would not be more than 20% of your takehome pay, and we have found 15% to be a lot more comfortable.

I can't imagine it being that low. Mine is about 40%. It was that when I rented too.

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Yes, I know this. I was just hoping that we would finally be able to buy a house. We have had a very rich life, and I do not regret it, or the values that allowed us to have the rich life. But those same values have prevented us from having a rich lifestyle, if you know what I mean. I won't go into the details of why we are in the situation we are in now, but it isn't from living foolishly. I'm just disappointed. Of course I don't want to have a house that is more than we can afford. That's why I'm trying to figure out what that reasonably would be. But I'm sad because I don't know if it will ever happen. I'm getting old. I wouldn't trade the life we've had for a house. But I would like to be able to get one.

:grouphug:

 

I do get it. Life is about choices and it sounds like you made the best ones you could. We can't do much travel for the same reasons you're struggling with a house budget, but we just do our best.

 

I really hope you can find a balance that allows you to get what you want without major sacrifices.

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I can't imagine it being that low. Mine is about 40%. It was that when I rented too.

We have a single income and a bunch of dependents who are only getting more expensive. We can't provide for eight people AND pay a high mortgage, so that ratio is the figure we can live with comfortably and it's been roughly the same the last six years for us :)

 

If we were paying that percentage of our income to a mortgage we would really struggle to pay medical, have no leisure activities or extracurriculars, and we'd struggle to keep food on the table and gas in the car. No retirement set aside either. That extra 20% of our budget would cut into all the margins that make things less stressful and more enjoyable, and some critical care budget line items too. We could make it work if we absolutely had to, like if we lived in the Bay Area or outside D.C., but I wouldn't want to!

Edited by Arctic Mama
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We will be moving soon, and hope to buy a house before too long. However, we have always rented, and have very little to put down for a downpayment at this time due to longtime underemployment. I'm trying to get an idea of how much we would be able to spend on a house without being too strapped in every other way. The place where we are moving seems to have a pretty good range of housing, and has a low cost of living. We are fairly frugal, but like to go out to eat and go to the occasional movie, plus our kids have a couple of extra curriculars that are on the lower cost end. They are also teens, so they eat a lot. 

 

Have you taken a close look at your budget for your current situation? When you add up all of your expenses/savings/needs/wants/etc., including your current housing costs, how much is left over that could be added to housing?

 

Math is math. We can manipulate it quite a bit, but the bottom line is going to be the bottom line in the end.  Dh got a raise that kicks in this month, and it was exciting to think about all of the new things we could treat ourselves to.  The big dream was a bigger house! But once we really broke it down and factored in the expenses that have been creeping up and juggled around over the past couple of years and the savings we definitely need to rebuild (plus upcoming classes, teen drivers, new co-op, and knowing dh will need a new vehicle next year,) that increase suddenly disappeared!  It was a disappointment, but it is going to make our budget less stressful.

 

I've been playing with DR's free app, Every Dollar.  It makes it nice and easy to increase or decrease line items while seeing how they each impact the bottom line. I had to add a lot of specialized line items, which was overwhelming at first, but now I can't pretend that keeping 7 people in sneakers, hiking boots, work shoes, snow boots, sandals, dress shoes, and (of course!) fashion boots is just something that magically happens with fake money whenever someone needs them!  :svengo:

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Have you taken a close look at your budget for your current situation? When you add up all of your expenses/savings/needs/wants/etc., including your current housing costs, how much is left over that could be added to housing?

 

Math is math. We can manipulate it quite a bit, but the bottom line is going to be the bottom line in the end. Dh got a raise that kicks in this month, and it was exciting to think about all of the new things we could treat ourselves to. The big dream was a bigger house! But once we really broke it down and factored in the expenses that have been creeping up and juggled around over the past couple of years and the savings we definitely need to rebuild (plus upcoming classes, teen drivers, new co-op, and knowing dh will need a new vehicle next year,) that increase suddenly disappeared! It was a disappointment, but it is going to make our budget less stressful.

 

I've been playing with DR's free app, Every Dollar. It makes it nice and easy to increase or decrease line items while seeing how they each impact the bottom line. I had to add a lot of specialized line items, which was overwhelming at first, but now I can't pretend that keeping 7 people in sneakers, hiking boots, work shoes, snow boots, sandals, dress shoes, and (of course!) fashion boots is just something that magically happens with fake money whenever someone needs them! :svengo:

That sounds like a lot of shoes! We live in a one season climate - sneakers, water shoes, and dress shoes.

 

You must need a whole shoe wall or however you store them!

Edited by displace
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That sounds like a lot of shoes! We live in a one season climate - sneakers, water shoes, and dress shoes.

 

You must need a whole shoe wall or however you store them!

 

Lol. We have ALL the seasons, and sometimes get them all in one day! Okay, maybe not swimming and snow... though my kids have gone wading one day with snow flurries the next! My life is spent tripping over shoes.

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That sounds like a lot of shoes! We live in a one season climate - sneakers, water shoes, and dress shoes.

 

You must need a whole shoe wall or however you store them!

 

It's not... the boys/men in my house have 3-5 pairs each. I have about 20. 7 of them are black. They are stored compactly on a shoe rack in the closet. If I only had one pair of dress shoes, I'd have to shop for dress clothes based on the color of the dress shoes. 

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Fwiw Dave Ramsey recommends that your house be no more than 25% of your income. 

 

The thing is people's lifestyles vary so much. House costs and cost of living vary wildly around the country. Some people have no kids some have 12. Some people only do free activities and some have their kids in a multitude of expensive activities. Some people have medical issues that require more money. Some people live a life filled with extravagances and others strive for minimalism. 

 

Only you know your family's needs and wants. All these numbers will only get you so far.

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